Cessationism & Charismania: opposing poles of the Church spectrum

RECONCILIATION between evangelicals and charismatics for the sake of fulfilling the Great Commission during these Last Days

Before the Israelites launched their invasion of Canaan as recorded in the Old Testament, a curious incident took place in which Joshua met the Lord.

Joshua 5:1 Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until they had crossed over, their hearts melted in fear and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites.

…13  Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”  14  “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.”

Many in the Church today believe that we are now in the last days preceding the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Before that great and dreadful day, we must fulfill the Great Commission on earth. We believe that the Israelites taking possession of the Promised Land in the Old Testament may be symbolic of the Church fulfilling the Great Commission.

Before the Israelites began their attack on Jericho, the Lord appeared to Joshua in a form which he did not at all recognize. He approached the stranger and asked him on whose side he stood. And the Lord answered him, “Neither, but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.”

Whenever believers in the Church come across The Elijah Challenge and the teaching the Lord has entrusted to us, an unspoken question might very well occur to them. “Who are these people? Are they evangelical or charismatic? Are they in the Form camp or in the Frenzy camp?”

The expression Form vs. Frenzy may have been coined by Wallace Henley, Senior Associate Pastor at Second Baptist Church in Houston with a total membership of over 60,000 people. In an article in the Christian Post on Form vs. Frenzy, Henley talks about Heisman Trophy-winning Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel who may very well be the No. 1 draft pick in the upcoming 2014 National Football League draft. Regarding the teaching of cessationism which holds that miracles such as are recorded in Acts have ceased, Henley wrote:

John MacArthur-style cessationism is like telling Johnny Football (Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M’s dazzling quarterback) he can only execute running plays because the passing game ended with Knute Rockne and football’s golden age.

But frenzy-style charismania orders Mr. Football to throw with abandon on every play, ignoring rules, boundaries, the health of his throwing arm, and the game plan. Pass even if it means an interception by a constantly scrambling opponent like, say, Simon the Sorcerer. (Acts 8)

Somewhere between the wary and the reckless, Form and Frenzy, there is solid truth on which to run the game of life and ministry.

Perhaps [The Elijah Challenge] and many others like [them] have found it. They might be disdained by John MacArthur on one extreme and Benny Hinn on the other, but they quietly circle the world in the balance of Word and Spirit, bringing multitudes to Christ and leaving biblical churches in their wake. (From the Christian Post: John MacArthur and Finding the Balance between Form and Frenzy)

If an evangelical were to ask us, “are you evangelical or charismatic?”, we would reply “neither.” If a charismatic were to ask us, “are you evangelical or charismatic?”, we would reply “neither.” We have chosen not to take sides, but rather to focus on the most important task Christ entrusted to the Church—the Great Commission. To us this is akin to the Israelites invading and taking possession of the Promised Land in the Old Testament.

We have chosen not to teach in the gray, non-essential areas where evangelicals and charismatics disagree even to the point of hurling accusations at one another and dividing the body of Christ. For example, we do not attempt publicly to answer the question of whether or not it is God’s will to heal all sick people or all sick believers. Neither do we spend much effort on explaining the meaning of Paul’s painful thorn mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12—a thorn which the Lord would not remove from Paul because His grace would be sufficient. We do not teach publicly that the only evidence of a believer being baptized in the Holy Spirit is speaking in unknown tongues in a second experience. Neither do we insist that all believers are automatically baptized with the Holy Spirit at conversion. Such questions will not be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction this side of heaven. There are other such controversies between evangelicals and charismatics which need not to be listed there. 

Instead our focus is on preaching the gospel to every creature, winning the lost, and discipling all nations by teaching them to obey everything Christ commanded in scripture. On such things both evangelicals and charismatics are in strong agreement.

In Acts we see the miraculous accompanying the preaching of the gospel, resulting in a great harvest of souls of both Jews and gentiles for the kingdom of God. Today there are vast swaths of the world where such miraculous signs are needed if we are going to see the harvests recorded in Acts. There are seven billion people in the world today, and only a fraction—between one and two billion—identify themselves as “Christians.” (Whether or not all “Christians” are indeed born-again is another moot question altogether.) A significant portion of the remaining five to six billion have never even heard the gospel, much less have available to them the written Word of God.

The Great Commission does not merely involve preaching the gospel to all creation. It also involves discipling all nations. While certainly not everyone in every nation will be saved, we are called to make disciples in every people group. And making disciples means that the indigenous believers will be trained to reach their own people effectively and to disciple them in turn. Depending on exactly what it means to fulfill the Great Commission, we may or more likely might not be close to fulfilling it.

The great majority of the earth’s inhabitants are Hindus, Buddhists, idol-worshipers, those who believe in witchcraft, and followers of the prophet from the Middle East. Such people groups are clearly gospel-resistant and difficult to reach with the gospel. They consider “Christianity” to be a foreign, mostly white man’s religion. They generally have great difficulty giving up the religion of their culture and ancestors, and to embrace a totally foreign and unfamiliar one—that is, unless they are confronted with miracles which they have never experienced and their gods cannot perform. Such powerful miracles prove to them that our Father is the only true God, and that Jesus is the only way to Him.

God paid the ultimate price for our salvation by sending His only Son Jesus Christ to suffer and die on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins so that we might receive the greatest miracle of all, eternal life. Is it so difficult to accept that God would now perform lesser miracles of healing to help gospel-resistant peoples believe in His Son? (There is no cogent reason from Scripture itself for us to reject such a possibility.) Is it actually their fault that they were born in a difficult-to-reach Hindu, Buddhist, or non-christianized area of the world? Does God love westerners more because they were born in the christianized West, and so make it “easier” for them to believe?

In the United States with its Judeo-Christian culture and with the gospel available on TV, in hundreds of thousands of churches, and through millions of born-again believers, it is not difficult for a person to follow Jesus Christ compared to someone born and brought up in the Third World. We would agree that most American believers have come to Christ apart from witnessing some type of miracle.

But the same is not true in the pagan Third World. Peoples there are understandably resistant to the gospel, to which most foreign missionaries will attest. Some missionaries have spent years and years on the mission field in the Third World and have not seen a single convert to Jesus Christ. Others may have seen a few. This is the experience of many if not most missionaries.

But when foreign missionaries are trained in the area of miraculous healing for the sake of confirming to the gospel to the lost, they can witness a satisfying harvest of lost souls to the kingdom of God. We have personally experienced this, and it is the experience of many servants of God we have trained.

One such servant of God in India whom we trained recently preached the gospel before a very huge crowd. An estimated 1,000,000 souls came to Christ at the invitation. Afterwards, multitudes in the huge crowd raised their hands to signify that the Lord had healed them of their sicknesses and physical infirmities as the trained servant of God prayed over them. These miracles were a wonderful confirmation of the truth of the gospel to the Hindus.

ABSOLUTE PROOF that Jesus is the only way to Heaven: over 2,000 testimonies of biblical miracles

We believe that such a harvest is pleasing to the Lord, and is a step toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission. It is for such a purpose and calling that He has raised up The Elijah Challenge. We desire to train thousands and thousands of such disciples and servants of God.

For that purpose we have chosen to eschew the traditional labels evangelical and charismatic as well as the associated debates and controversies. We belong to neither the Form nor the Frenzy camp. Within the grand context of the Great Commission, the arguments and accompanying divisions are not helpful. Rather, we are reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul:

1 Corinthians 9:19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews… 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law… 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

In our particular case, we have made ourselves a slave to everyone so as to train as many as possible—to go out to win as many as possible before the great and terrible day of the Lord.

Dilemma for Dispensationalism (aka Cessationism)

Basis for UNITY between Evangelicals & Charismatics

Evangelicals can minister effective healing without “the gift of healing”